Outline and evaluate the risk factors associated with developing addiction (8+16 marks)
There are various different risk factors which are associated with increasing the likelihood of developing addiction. These include stress, peer pressure, age, personality, parenting style and modelling as well as environment.
In terms of age, it was found by Sharm et al (2006) that adolescence were more receptive to the stress relieving effects of nicotine and less affected by the negative effects. This could suggest that young people are more susceptible to developing addiction to drugs like nicotine and alcohol simply because they may not feel or see the negative side effects and therefore may justify its use because it has no negative effect on them. This particular study was conducted in a lab environment, which would have resulted in a high set of controls that would not have allowed for extraneous variables to have an effect on results. While this may mean that results are more valid, the extent to which these results can be generalised has to be questioned because any lab study lacks, to some extent or another, ecological validity. On the other side of this argument sees results collected by a survey in Canada in 2006. These results suggested that smoking was used as a gateway to other more serious drugs such as cannabis in 50-55% of individuals and to drink in 91% of them. There is a suggestion here that the earlier we are exposed to an addictive substance, the more likely we are to carry on with this behaviour in later life only to transfer this onto other things when our first choice becomes unsatisfying, meaning that addiction is more likely to stay with a person in old age. A positive of researching the vulnerability of young people to addictive behaviour is the possible implications for treatment which may increase its success. This body of research may mean that the focus of public health interventions and campaigns should be more aimed toward the younger generation. However, there is the argument that most of the studies which have been conducted in this area were correlational, meaning we cannot really establish cause and effect, leaving the pool open for other factors to interact with addictive behaviour as well as age.
The influence of peers has also been looked at in this area. It is said that the two factors of age and our peer groups throughout life have a vital role to…